Hubby said I should fix my first post from here to indicate that yes, indeed, I’ve been talking about Turkey, but I can’t be bothered, so I’ll just mention it now.

I’m writing this from Turkey.

It certainly isn’t what I expected!

Our guide is a petite lady with pretty good English, very secular, and a real proponent of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who had a big hand in getting rid of the Islamic influences in Turkey and making it secular.

I’m certain I read somewhere that he banned Islamic dress, he definitely changed the language from an Arabic derivative to English, over night turning the whole country illiterate, but then again he overthrew a pretty corrupt sultan system.

She calls Ataturk a national hero and today we went to visit (pay homage) to the man himself.

I felt much like I did in Nanjing when we were dragged up the mountainside to visit the tomb of the guy who fathered modern China.

Modern politics doesn’t really appeal to me. So when my Mom was having trouble navigating the stairs I took it as the perfect excuse to stay behind and not visit the mausoleum and museum displaying his artifacts.

Funny thing is though both my father and mother both admire the guy too, in fact my mom had every intention of reciting surah Fatiha over his grave on behalf of her father who was a real Ataturk fan, (so much so that he even took to wearing his distinctive red fez).

My husband told me I really missed out on an experience. He said the museum was excellent and he argued that Ataturk had to do something drastic to get the yoke of Islamic rigidity off the people’s backs.

Basically he said everyone was free to be religious or not. But if that were really true why would it be so hard today, for a member of Turkish parliament to wear hijab.

I think secularists just assume that if you give people a choice they won’t bother sticking to ‘ancient’ principles that seem very inconvenient.

But Turkey has been fascinating.

It is a BEAUTIFUL country! With rolling fields of farmland and mountains and plants I can recognize from Canada, and we’ve been seeing a LOT of it! We’ve basically done a circuit through Istanbul and Troy and down to Ankara and now, I’m writing this from a small Unesco heritage town called Safronbolu, which means city of saffron because they grew saffron here and were famous for it.

It’s from the Ottomon period, the sixteen hundreds to eighteen hundreds and many of the buildings are restored and turned into shops and hotels.

The cities here are impeccably clean, and when we went out for a walk just before sunset I realized why. They have street cleaners who dligently pick up all the garbage.

So it’s not like other Muslim countries in that regard.

And there are no beggars. My husband only saw one little boy who stretched out his hand. Some people are definitely poor, but they don’t beg. And even the annoying hawkers that hounded us at The Blue Mosque refused to take my father’s twenty lira note without him buying something for it.

I guess it’s understandable that we’ve run into a lot of tourists. They have rest stops on the highways just like back in North America, and everyone gets off the buses to be empty their bladders or bowels.

Sometimes you have to pay a lira for the privilege. A funny thing happened. At one of the rest areas the line for the ladies w.c. was so long that we probably wouldn’t have been able to make it back to the bus in time so the Chinese guide told us to go ahead and use the men’s w.c. where there was no line.

So a bunch of us ventured into forbidden territory.

Men’s washrooms just feel dirtier than women’s somehow!

Guess I took longer than I should. I always squeamishly wipe down the toilet seats and I was the last woman coming out of the stalls. There was a guy unzipping at the urinal and I thought, “Yikes!” and averted my eyes, trying to hurry the heck out of there, when a Muslim gent came in and raised both of his hands in an alarmed gesture saying, “Ya Muslim! What are you doing in here?”

I tripped over the words, trying to explain that we’d had permission from our guide, and then he just laughed and said, “Don’t worry sister, I’m only joking!”


Got to see the birthplace of an unexpected celebrity!

Mullah Nasruddin aka Nasruddin Hoja, Hoca, Goha, a folktale figure who is absolutely famous across Muslim lands, was born in Turkey.

Can’t remember the name of the city right now but I took a picture of the statue they’d erected of him, riding a donkey backwards.

As soon as our Turkish guide said his name and that we were passing through his birthplace I perked right up.

(We also went through the city where Rumi is buried but I don’t know nearly as much about Rumi as I do about Mullah Nasruddin so it didn’t hit me that hard!)

We were having lunch at the restaurant right where the statue was and I said to my Chinese co-travellers that they really didn’t get how significant a place this was and how famous Mullah Nasruddin really is!

When I ventured into storytelling was when I first learned about the Hoja and I’ve loved his stories ever since. I said to my husband, they need to know! They need to hear some of his stories and I thought of telling the guide that I’d be willing to do a bit of an impromptu storytelling session while on the bus, he said let him talk to the guide.

The guide looked doubtful but agreed. Later while we were boarding the bus she said something along the lines that she wasn’t sure they’d enjoy the stories. She didn’t find them funny.

I couldn’t believe it! She didn’t like the Hoja stories???

But then given her secular west-leaning nature, maybe I shouldn’t have been that surprised that she wouldn’t find value in traditional Islamic stories.

I told about six stories, and the weirdest thing was they actually knew of one of them: the one where Hoja and his son are walking with his donkey.

But they laughed, and they loved the stories, and the guide said that she’d even ‘smiled’.

Wow. Only smiled.

It’s sad when a people can’t find enough value in their own culture.